Martha’s Vineyard gallery gains new manager

Michael Stiassni has taken the reins at Edgartown Art Gallery, adjacent to the Charlotte Inn. — Photo courtesy of Edgartown Art Gallery

Adjacent to the Charlotte Inn, the Edgartown Art Gallery makes its home in a dignified white clapboard house on Summer Street. Innkeeper Gary Conover started the gallery in 1971, and its art collection extends into the reception rooms of the Charlotte Inn. This year a new manager brings his talents to the gallery, which prides itself on an elegant setting and the timeless style of its art.

Michael Stiassni comes to the Vineyard after a career in the financial world, with bases in Munich and London. A regular visitor to the Edgartown Art Gallery over the years when he has come to visit family members, he bought a painting, usually a Ray Ellis, at the gallery whenever he could. The gallery reminded him of London.

“I developed a wonderful love for the gallery,” he said in a recent interview. In the years he worked for Lehman Brothers in Europe as a senior vice president, he spent what free time he had visiting museums in Vienna, Munich, London, Paris, and Zurich.

Mr. Stiassni’s interest in art has spanned a lifetime. “An eye for good art is an innate talent,” he observed.

Mr. Conover, who became a friend through Mr. Stiassni’s visits to the gallery, introduced him to his future wife, Evie. Arriving on the Island last April, Mr. Stiassni planned to make a five-day visit to his sister in Edgartown. Instead he stayed three weeks, and his two-year romance with his wife-to-be led to their wedding at the Charlotte Inn, with Mr. Conover and his wife Paula in attendance. The decision to accept Mr. Conover’s job offer as manager of the Edgartown Art Gallery was part of the rapid course of events that Mr. Stiassni called “a renaissance of life.”

“I want to create a gallery that people are enthusiastic about,” Mr. Stiassni said. Although the Edgartown Art Gallery’s clientele tends to come from the top one percent of Americans, Mr. Stiassni doesn’t look only for expensive work, and he would like to find more young artists for the gallery. Close contact with the artist serves as important a criterion for the gallery manager as does contact with the client. Mr. Stiassni hopes eventually to help his clients as an advisor or consultant in addition to selling them artwork.

“Art is a very important part of the texture of a person,” he said. “I love the passion that art gives. It enriches the person. The gallery is founded on a great ethic by Mr. Conover.”

The gallery represents a wide spectrum of artists, both national or regional and local. Cindy House, who creates landscapes in pastel that hang in the gallery, hails from New Hampshire, and Italian-born Sergio Roffo is based in Scituate. The Pennsylvania portrait painter Bill Ewing exhibits at the Edgartown Art Gallery.

Rhode Island portrait painter David Schock does landscapes and figure paintings shown at the gallery. Other names that will be familiar to Islanders include still-life expert Eric Conklin.

“I hope that people will come in and appreciate what I am trying to do, that they will feel my love and enthusiasm,” Mr. Stiassni said.

The gallery sells antiques as well as art. In the process of revamping its website at, it plans to participate in the August gallery stroll in Edgartown.

Correction: The print version of the story incorrectly stated that Ray Ellis remains a gallery mainstay and that the gallery represents painter Marjorie Mason. While the gallery continues to treasure its existing collection of paintings, it no longer represents Mr. Ellis.

The Christina Gallery represents Majorie Mason and will feature her landscapes in a show on August 9.